Identifying the Crew – Who’s Writing What?

By: Kerry Wilbur, BSc(Pharm), ACPR, PharmD, MScPH, FCSHP & Janet Cooley, PharmD, BCACP

This post is part of our Educational Scholarship “Quick Start” series.  In this series, the editorial boards of Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning and Innovations in Pharmacy are joining together to provide advice that helps authors avoid common problems in education-related inquiry.  A “Quick Start” is not only about being efficient – it’s about enhancing the impact and effectiveness of our scholarly contributions.  

Who are the sailors?

When diving into the sea of scholarly literature on a topic, the synergies between the conversations and their contributors quickly becomes apparent.  After all, charting what is written is not readily separated from who is writing what! Keeping an eye on the output of authors themselves can offer a deeper insight into the trajectory of your particular topic/s of interest according to these researchers’ own evolving understanding – as gleaned through their publications and collaborations.  Training your radar on leaders in your field will help keep you up to date and support identification of potential collaborators or reviewers for your work.  

Harnessing technologies to push content into your inboxes and/or feeds – with minimal active effort on your part – remains chief among our tactics to track researchers.  For example, if a favourite researcher has a Google Scholar profile, you can choose the ‘follow’ icon from this page to enable new article alerts transmission to you at a designated email address. Similarly, in Scopus, you can set up author or citation alerts.

Identifying whose hands are on deck

However, we realize we may have leapfrogged over how to determine who to tag when setting up such alerts. Here is where the dynamic world of online science-as-social networks is your oyster.1 ResearchGate is an example of a social networking site for researchers and collaborators. When you choose research topics and researchers to follow, the site is programmed to make suggestions for other researchers to follow according to your recorded profile, research interests, citations, and existing network. 

Without doubt, Twitter is the preeminent social networking service across disciplines and genres.  Individual profiles on this platform are not designed to house a singular inventory of the registered user’s output (unlike Google Scholar or ResearchGate). Twitter’s power arguably lies in its user connections and real time activity alerts. “Following” someone not only unlocks access to their posted Twitter content, but also content with which they engage (e.g. likes, retweets) and Twitter accounts they in turn follow.  A peek into this “Following” list is worthwhile as you can find not only individual, but also journal or professional society/organization accounts which may also be of interest to you. In our experience, your Twitter network will grow iteratively over time as posts retweeted or liked by researchers you follow find their way into your feed (Figure 1).   Twitter also facilitates connection with scholars who fall outside pharmacy or other health professions who research and write about a shared topic of interest, but from a different disciplinary perspective. 

Although its origins are as a business and employment-oriented service, LinkedIn is also a forum to build a network of professional contacts.  Researchers may engage with user posts (e.g. “liking”, comments) or connect directly with colleagues at other institutions and around the world through the messaging feature.    

While other social media platforms like Instagram or Tiktok may be considered atypical sources for scholarly content, entertaining science communication has gained prominence during the coronavirus pandemic.  Public health and medical professionals have taken to these platforms to transmit health information in creative (music! costume! dance!) and succinct (typically under 60 seconds) formats.2  Given the reality of wide accessibility by giant global audiences, these may very well evolve into a stage for disseminating and engaging with scholarly output in the future.  

Landing on familiar shores 

Even if you do not have the opportunity to register or attend (in-person, virtually), professional conferences often web-publish proceedings where you can readily locate abstracts by researchers writing about your topic of interest.  Writers of note may also be invited to address the conference as keynote speakers. You could then parlay the web-based networking tips we have previously described to engage with them and their work.  You may also uncover topic authorities hosting or appearing as guests on podcasts.  There are various search engines to explore relevant and appealing programming from many music-streaming platforms (e.g. Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Music, Google Play).  Give your eyes a rest and tune in while commuting or puttering around your home.

Even with the digital efficiencies of automation, activating these resources and screening their output can easily lead to fatigue – instead of lifesaver strategies, you may paradoxically feel thrashed by waves with all these tactics!  Methods to identify and explore research communities are the unifying features of all these tips; you do not need to adopt them all!

Try just a few and we are confident you will be ready to set sail into the ocean of scholarly conversations. 


  1. Jordan K.  From social networks to publishing platforms:  A review of the history and scholarship of academic social network sites. Front Digit Humanit. March 2019.
  1. Comp G, Dyer S, Gottlie M.  Is TikTok the next social media frontier for medicine?  AEM Educ Train. September 2020.


Kerry Wilbur is an Editorial Board Member with Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning and Janet Cooley is an Editorial Board Member at Innovations in Pharmacy.

Author Bio(s):

Kerry Wilbur is Associate Professor and Executive Director of Entry-to-Practice Education at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada). Her research interests intersect workplace-based learning, interprofessional education,  global and public health.

Janet Cooley is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, the Director of Experiential Education, and the Associate Director of Interprofessional Education at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy.  Her scholarly interests include curriculum, programmatic and course development; professional identity formation; and exploration of the impact of the scholarship of teaching and learning. 

Pulses is a scholarly blog supported by Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning

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